Ajax v Juventus: Yet another tough European night in store for Bianconeri
After knocking out holders Real Madrid in the last round, Ajax's chances of causing yet another upset appear underrated ahead of their quarter-final first leg on Wednesday evening, writes James Eastham...
"Every time Ajax have faced opponents of Juventus' calibre in this season's competition, they've conceded a goal."
Best Bet: Both Teams to Score @ [1.8]
Ajax vs Juventus
Wed, 20:00 BST
Live on BT Sport 3
Ronaldo should be fit to start
Ajax right-back Noussair Mazraoui is suspended. Most of the other stars of their refreshing campaign, including six-goal top scorer Dusan Tadic, are available to start.
Juventus manager Max Allegri has said he's "confident" Cristiano Ronaldo will be fit. The five-times Ballon d'Or winner has been out since March 25 with a thigh injury. In all other positions Juventus should be able to field their strongest line-up without any concerns.
Underrated hosts the smart selection
Anybody that has followed these two teams closely in this season's competition may be surprised to find that Ajax are clear underdogs. Erik ten Hag's side are [3.55] to win on the night, with Juventus [2.34] and The Draw [3.4].
Yet Ajax went unbeaten through the group phase (W3-D3-L0) despite facing Bayern Munich, Benfica and AEK Athens, and then caused one of the biggest upsets in the competition's recent history when they knocked out holders Real Madrid 5-3 (on aggregate) in the Last 16. Ajax blotted their copybook at home to Real by losing the first leg in front of their own fans (2-1) but their performance over the two legs showed they can live with the continent's very best.
Juventus have greater European pedigree and experience but have lost three of their eight games in this season's competition to date. Two of their defeats came on the road: they lost 2-1 at Young Boys on the final matchday of the group phase and were then thoroughly outplayed in losing 2-0 at Atletico Madrid in the Last 16 first leg before their remarkable turnaround to qualify thanks to a Ronaldo hat-trick in the second leg in Turin.
The big odds on Ajax throw up good opportunities to back the hosts in other markets. Ajax are [2.5] in the Draw No Bet market and [2.0] with a +0&0.5 Asian Handicap start. Both selections are worth considering.
Attacks to rule on the night
Looking at the progress the two sides have made in the competition this season, what's obvious is that both sides are likely to struggle to keep a clean sheet when they go head-to-head. Ajax's limited European pedigree counts against them while Juventus' defence no longer looks as rock-solid as it once did.
Ajax have kept three clean sheets in their eight games to date (preliminary rounds not included) but what really counts is that every time they've faced opponents of Juventus' calibre, they've conceded a goal. Their two fixtures against Bayern Munich in the group phase ended 1-1 (away) and 3-3 (home) and both teams then scored in both legs of their Last 16 tie vs Real Madrid (1-2 home, 4-1 away).
If, as expected, Ronaldo is fit to start, the more experienced visitors will be confident of exploiting fragilities in the Ajax defence. Yet Juventus have their own defensive concerns: Manchester United's 2-1 group-phase win in Turin last November highlighted vulnerabilities and Atletico Madrid then did the same with their 2-0 Last 16 first-leg victory in February. Ex-Southampton striker Tadic has six goals in this season's competition and is the Ajax man most likely to take advantage of weaknesses in the Serie A leaders' back line.
Over 2.5 Goals is a tempting selection at [2.08] (it's the underdog of two in the Under/Over 2.5 Goals market, with Unders [1.9]). We prefer 'Yes' in the Both Teams to Score? market at [1.8] in order to cover the 1-1 scoreline - 1-1 being, of course, how the game ended after 90 minutes and extra-time when these two sides met in the Champions League final in Rome 23 years ago, courtesy of goals from Fabrizio Ravanelli and Jari Litmanen.
James’ 2018-19 Champions League P/L
Ajax +0&+0.5 Asian Handicap @ [2.00]
‘Yes’ in Both Teams to Score? market @ [1.8]